WTF — “Career Levels” by Norbert Marszalek


The following are definitions of “Career Levels” taken from the CAAP grant application here in Chicago. These definitions are also used throughout the art world.

Those at early stages of development defined as having received no or very small grants, awards, or funding from any source. Although the applicant may have little or no exhibition/performance/production history, there is strong commitment demonstrated by the art with potential for growth. The applicant is at the beginning of professional, or organizational development. Individuals with professional or degree training, self-taught, or mentored artists are eligible.

Those with progressive exhibition/performance/production history as demonstrated by resume, grants or funding history. Has received funding from any of these sources: the Department of Cultural Affairs, The Illinois Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts or Humanities, or prizes/awards from local, national/international programs. Organizations will show a board of directors, productive, established management systems, and at least one staff member who is paid either part or full time.

Those demonstrating an extensive, progressive history in exhibition/performance/production as demonstrated by resume; local, regional, national/international recognition in the field; has professional or commercial affiliations. Includes any or all aspects of the Emerging Level.

I have a few random thoughts:

Concerning “New”, an artist can have 20 years experience at their craft, producing and selling good work, but not have great exhibitions or any grants to show for it…would this artist still be considered “New”? Based on the definitions, this artist is not “Emerging” because of their weak resume and no grant history and certainly not “Mid-Career” so this particular artist after 20 years of working would be considered “New”.

Concerning “Emerging”, how long can one be an emerging artist? Emerging seems to be a one or two year stint. After “Emerging” one or two years does that then put the artist at “Mid-Career”?! or maybe just “Plain Old Artist”…? Can one be labeled an “Emerging” artist after 5, 6 or 10 years of experience? Let’s say an artist gets their MFA at 24 and has a great run for 5 years. Based on the definitions, this artist is definitely not “New” and really not “Emerging” after 5 years of an “extensive” history so it seems that this artist is “Mid-Career” at the ripe old age of 29. And let’s not even get into the term “Re-Emerging”.

On to “Mid-Career”. This is easy enough to understand in its purest sense. This artist has years of experience and has an “extensive, progressive, international” resume and some grant history. All understood. My question is: what would this artist want with a CAAP grant?!

My point to all of this is that it would be easier and make more sense if we drop the silly “Levels” bullshit and just ask the simple question: How long have you been an artist?